A few weeks ago I was asked to speak at a VO get together on the East coast. The subject I was given was, “How To Take Your Voice Business To The Next Level.” We couldn’t make the schedule work out, but on a plane flight I put down some thoughts that I would want to share if the opportunity had worked out.

So, here you are, for whatever they’re worth: Five butt-kickers to get you going.

1. Quit focusing on the words.

Start focusing on the listener/viewer. What is it about that copy that is going to grab their attention and make them listen to what you are saying? Words are simply the framework of the thought. Quit reading and start leading the listener.

You won’t always get away with that because producers and engineers often have their own opinion, but it’s a great way to start the session!

In an ideal session, I make two copies of the script (one for back up). I read and mark up the copy based on what I see and sense while saying some of the key phrases out loud.

I know what you’re thinking. Yeah, I kill a lot of trees. No, I don’t use a monitor in the booth. It’s too expensive to keep replacing them after marking them up. You voice talents that do that, more power to you. I’m not that good.

2. Today’s agent doesn’t get you work.

In today’s business world, you get you work. Your agent merely lets you know of some opportunities out there. Put it into perspective. How much do you make off a voice job over how much an agent makes? Now, who should be doing most of the work? Get off your butt and quit expecting someone else to feed you grapes and jobs.

If I depended on my agents to get me work, I’d be salting fries. Agents don’t get you work. They get you auditions. And even then they usually don’t have an exclusive on the lead, so you’re competing with lots of other talents for the job.

Frankly, it would suck to be an agent. First of all you have to put up with neurotic voice talents who don’t really understand the process. Then you have to put up with clients with whom you really have no working relationship. Finally, you have more paper work and details to handle than a traffic cop on Friday night! Be thankful you’re a voice talent and not an agent!

3. Get a dog.

Your home studio will become one of the loneliest places on earth. You’ll spend hours on hours a day there. You’ll have some phone or online interaction with some people, usually clients, but hardly ever see a client face to face. Get used to it.

Today, after spending about nine hours in the booth plus editing, I spent another two hours checking cables and re-wiring part of my studio. Another hour on the phone with Dell about a computer problem, and then an hour of paper work.

Yeah. It’s glamorous. I’ve worn the same shirt for three days and I haven’t shaved.

4. Take care of business.

This is a tough one for me. It’s hard to remember that I am a business. I’m fortunate enough to make a nice living from my business, but I have to remember that my clients are in business also, and they depend on me taking care of mine.

That means keeping my equipment in order. Now, I realize that most of the people who read this will not be full-time in the voiceover business. But that is no excuse for shoddy equipment, poor signal chains, inadequate acoustics, and bad editing. You’re in business. Act like it. If you put out an inferior product, that’s how you’re going to be labeled.

This isn’t some sort of MLM business where you work your way up because of your great personality and energy, and all the people you know and get to sign up with you. This is the production business. You are producing a product. High quality production breeds high quality demand.

Think of it this way. If you put out inferior work, and your client accepts it, your client is putting out inferior work. It won’t be long before both you and your client fail.

Taking care of business also means taking care of the office work. That means getting invoices out in a timely manner. Timely answers to emails and phone calls. Handling issues quickly and professionally.

It means handling your financial affairs properly. Pay your bills. Pay your taxes. I very seldom get stung in this business by someone who doesn’t pay me. But most of the time when it happens, it’s by another voice talent who engaged me to work a project for him/her. Now, I hate losing money, but I also feel badly for a fellow voice talent who’s lost his integrity. Don’t do it. It will come back to haunt you.

5. Push the envelope.

Always work at developing your talent. Try new things. Play with new styles. Define new characters. Discover a new delivery.

Let me give you an example. Years ago I had a voice job which required some laughing. Frankly, I was awful. Even though I have a theatre background and can carry a character, my laughing was laughable.

I started spending time in my booth laughing. I recorded my laughing. I worked on it for a long time to make it natural and believable, and out of that came a new voice – an old weather-beaten cowboy. Now, don’t ask me how I got from laughing to an old cowboy. I don’t know. But it happened. And that character voice has made me a chunk of change.

You will probably never use most of what you try, but expanding your range will give you so much more to work with and so much more confidence. Along with that you will also discover what your limits are; what you can’t do. But you’ll surprise yourself with how much more you can do!

Well, there you have it. Consider your butt kicked and step up your voiceover business.

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